Elite athletes are naturally gifted and they train hard. They are also supported by a team of physicians, nutritionists, physical therapists, and trainers. But often there is an additional ingredient that contributes to their star performance.
The New York Times reported the results of a series of interviews by Gina Kolata about those special ingredients that give top athletes an edge. She organized the findings under five idea themes.
We thought the five tips might also help sales reps take that additional step that could separate them from their competition.
- Staying focused – Star athletes concentrate every moment of their practice on thinking about their technique. Top sales reps plan and rehearse sales calls. But that preparation doesn’t mean they just go through the sales call on autopilot. Sales success requires staying focused on the customer during the call. Does the customer bring forth issues and challenges you did not anticipate? Does a new opportunity emerge to leverage one of your strengths? Are there additional steps you need to take in the sales process?
- Managing the “energy pie” – The “energy pie” is all those things that take your time and effort. The amount of the “energy pie” available for winning is reduced by distractions. For athletes this may means eliminating activities that don’t contribute to winning that next competition. This idea also applies to sales people. How do sales people limit all of the “administrivia” that takes away from their selling time?
- Structuring training – For professional athletes, every workout has a purpose – endurance, speed, recovery, etc. Sales people can easily fall into the trap of doing the same thing over and again to improve their performance rather than evaluating how to structure their developmental time. For example, should strategy review sessions with sales managers always have the same structure and purpose? When preparing for a sales call, does the preparation differ by whom you are calling on? Is the sales training you’re attending focused on helping you achieve success?
- Taking risks – It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone … we all know that. But taking risks is critical to athletic success and to sales success. Whether it’s calling on different business functions or people in different roles or positioning that new product versus the one you know so well – taking risks is critical to achieving true sales success. You can survive by staying in the comfort zone but to prosper you must take some risks.
- Recognizing the other guy is hurting too – When the “race” is neck and neck, elite athletes still believe they are going to win. Even when the competition has a great track record. They remember the other guy is hurting just as much as they are. If you stay close, and withstand the surge, you can win. This is true in sales, too. Rarely do sales people find themselves without keen competition – some may be better positioned in the account, others may be able to surge because they have a larger sales support organization but it is good to remember that winning is still within reach if you stay close and focus on the customer.
Granted the comparison of elite athletes and sales reps is a bit over done. However from time to time it might be all right to take a second look – after all, those athletes on a good day are fun to watch.
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